Sunday, January 20, 2008

SANDY BARCLAY (1947-2008)




Sandy Barclay was one of the bravest men it's been my privilege to know personally.

The funeral service of the former Ballater Golf Club secretary was held at Glenmuick Parish Church last Friday. He was buried at Tullich Cemetery near Ballater where he was born in 1947.
Sandy died at Aboyne Hospital on January 10 "with great dignity and courage after a long illness," said his death notice in the Aberdeen "Press and Journal."

We are all going to die sometime but I doubt if I could be as brave about impending death as Sandy was after being told in April 2001 that he was suffering from the incurable Motor Neurone Disease.

Sandy was no saint. Like all of us, he had his good days and bad days but his heart was in the right place. I remember interviewing him for the May 2004 issue of "Golfview," and I could not have blamed him had he been wallowing in self-pity.

Not a bit. Sandy faced up to his limited future and told me the facts without exaggeration or emotion. His retirement from the Ballater Golf Club post had been fixed for April 30, some nine years after he took up the post. Much of his earlier life - 30 years of it - had been spent in the Royal Navy. He was a Warrant Officer in the Submarine Service when he came back to Civvy Street.

In that 2004 interview, Sandy told me: "My health has caught up with me. I can't golf but I can still walk and that's what I'll be doing. Motor Neurone is a disease that causes progressive muscular atrophy. I said that when my speech started to go and deteriorated to the point that I couldn't make myself understood on the telephone, then it would be the time to retire from the Ballater Golf Club job. I think that time has come."

He organised Texas Scramble open tournaments to raise money for the Scottish Motor Neurone Disease Association and they always had a full house of entries, as much a testament to the high regard in which Sandy Barclay was held in the North-east golfing world as to the desire of the golfing public to do their bit for a worthy cause.

Sandy told me that he first developed pain in his right elbow and later some wasting of the muscles in that forearm before, in April 2001, he was given the diagnosis that he was suffering from Motor Neurone Disease.

"There is research going on all the time but the funding is nowhere near that which cancer reaseach enjoys," Sandy told me. "There are drugs being refined all the time to help combat MND. It is too late to help me but the money we have raised from these Texas Scrambles helped to fund ongoing research."

Not that a man like Sandy would be forgotten anyway but he does have an enduring golfing memorial in the Royal Deeside Golf Classic which attracts visitors from all over Britain to play at Ballater, Aboyne, Banchory and Inchmarlo in July every year. The tournament was a Sandy Barclay idea.



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